Animal Track Identification

Identifying Animal Footprints and Paw Prints

December 8, 2020
Animal Tracks Footprints in the Snow
Val_Iva/Shutterstock

You don’t have to be in the jungle or deep forest to be an animal tracker. Animal footprints are often as close as your backyard or garden. Take a look at these animal track pictures—showing footprints in both snow and mud.

How to Track Animals and Identify Animal Tracks

Tracking is something that you learn by doing. Get out there and look! Here are a few tips:

  • Animal tracks are easiest to find in mud, soft garden soil, sand, and snow.
  • Study the ground closely. Get down on your hands and knees. Note the size of the track and whether it shows claw marks. You may wish to make a sketch.
  • Track early in the morning or late in the day when shadows make prints easier to see.
  • Watch for animal droppings called scat. The scat will also help you track the animal. If it’s dry all the way through, the tracks may have been left a while ago. Scat can also tell you if you’re tracking a vegetarian or a meat eater.
  • If you lose the trail, search in a circle around the track until you pick up the trail again.
  • The most important tip of all: don’t get lost!

Animal Track Pictures in the Winter Snow

If you live in a snowy area, this is probably the easiest way to see and identify tracks. Take a look at these common animal tracks.

animal-tracks-winter.jpg

Animal Track Pictures in the Mud

Here are the same animal tracks as they might look in a muddy garden or backyard!

animal tracks

We love all these animals, but if these are destroying your garden, here are simple ways to deter common critters:
 deermicemolesrabbitsraccoonsskunkssquirrelsvoles, and woodchucks or groundhogs

Have you seen any animal tracks in your backyard lately? Tell us about it below!

Reader Comments

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Strange tracks

Mainly in response to Grannysharon and others: I noticed that a lot of people have been describing three toed tracks. I would always go with the most logical explanation first--ostrich? Most likely. But do they have pads on their feet? If you have a park ranger look at a cast , they would be the best person to declare/rule out an ostrich track. But if they tell you it is not that....have you considered "alternative theories"? LOL! Let me explain....I have lived in Halifax county NC for 10 years or so, and saw my first bigfoot/sasquatch cross the road in front of my car 3 and a half years ago in daylight! They are quite the thing around here and we have numerous credible sightings from townspeople, a police officer, hunters, college professors and people are constantly finding and making casts of these bigfoot prints at Medoc Mt. State park on many occasions. Now that aside, these tracks are not bigfoot tracks, but this is what attracted my attention: There was a string of bigfoot sightings 5 years ago at the park and investigators casted a typical five toed bigfoot track from a sighting area along with a print cast of what you described above. It even matched in the relative size: I would say the cast is 7-8 inches long and 6-7 inches across with pads on the bottom and three toes with claw impressions (not like pointy dog claws but wider like sharp fingernails) and it also looked like there was the start of maybe a fourth toe off to the side(like a little bump but maybe didnt cast well). The expert who casted them showed them to park officials and rangers and no one could identify them as any biological animal they knew of. Now the area where these were recovered.....a bigfoot was seen as well as a bipedal creature with a snout and pointed ears. I have heard a woman saw a "werewolf" standing beside the road around here and had a man and his wife tell me in Walmart (after recognizing me as a speaker at the annual Bigfoot in the Park event) and confided in me they saw a "werewolf" cross the road twice, a year apart, as well as seeing strange blue lights. These three toed prints have reported to the local cryptozoology expert as being found in other parts of the county. That is what I getting at: Do an internet search on Dogman sightings etc. Now I don't know if it was that, but that is what people saw around where the prints were found. So I am putting two and two together. Perhaps.....

Tracks in snow

Long track that looks like the animal had wheels on their back legs! Two parallel lines going all over the snow covered back yard about a foot apart. Wish I could post a photo. Thanks

snow tracks in north carolina, any help identifying?

Hi, I saw some tracks that look much like the ones towards bottom of this main articles front picture, in the lower part of the pic here, going across horizontally the set that is the only set in pic that intersects and goes across the red berries in the small tree on lower left part of pic. Any idea what these are? thanks

Tracks in the snow 1/19/2021

From the west, crossed my frozen, snow covered
pond then off the south end. Both front and rear
prints are side by side. The snow wasn't deep and the prints weren't clear enough but you could see pads and claws. I have pictures. Thanks, Ed Z

Symmetrical print

Got a paw print in the snow. About the size of a silver dollar. Five equal sized toe or pad marks in a circle, like a perfect little pentagram. What can it be? Thank you!

five toed tracks

The Editors's picture

Hi, Tony: Here are some general possibilities, although I don’t know if some of these would be options in your region. Members of the rodent family have 5 toes; usually these are smaller than a silver dollar, though, and in many cases, one toe on the front paw usually does not register. Squirrels might be a possibility, although again, sometimes one of the toes doesn’t register on a print, at least on the front paw. An eastern gray squirrel’s front paws are about 1-¼ to 1-¾ inches; back paws 1-¼ to 3-¼ inches. Chipmunk tracks would be smaller. Raccoons, opossums, otters, skunks, weasels, etc, also show 5 toes. Bears and beavers also show 5 toes, but they would not be silver dollar size. Canine family or cat family would not show 5 toes (they show 4). Opossums have a more splayed pattern, with the back paw showing a thumb pointing quite a bit further off from the other toes, quite distinctive; the front paws, though do have a symmetrical pattern with 5 toes radiating out equally. The front paws of an opossum are about 1 to 2 inches, while the back paws are about 1 to 2-¾ inches. Racoons–the front paws (about 1-¾ to 3 inches long) look like small handprints, while the back paws, the pad (or heel) will be more elongated (about 2 to 4 inches long); all toes point pretty much forward. Fishers also show 5 toes usually, in snow at least; sometimes one toe will not show in certain surfaces. Hope that gives you some ideas as to what it might be!

Dog attack

Could be an owl... or night hawk?...nope... definately an owl...

3 dots, that's all

Our small (15lb or so) dog went out last night about 11pm. Almost immediately, I heard yiping/barking. I started to go out, and it was starting to sound real bad then, like he was in pain. So I hurried out, ran to the back where I heard him yiping, yelling the whole way. Then my dog ran past me to the back door crying in pain, Brought him in; he was bleeding many places. All scratched up looking. Took him to the vet;they don't know if he'll survive. Went to look for tracks,but all I see are these 3-hole marks. 2 on top and one centered below them. Not big. Smaller than my hand. The holes themselves look like could have been made by a pencil eraser end. Almost that small. Kinda deep. Lots of them right where I saw my dog scuffling w/an unseen animal before he ran to the door. Also I was sure I heard a sound like a very mad cat would make. Right as I ran outside to find him. No idea what it was. I live in semi-rural suburb in NE Oklahoma. Anyone know what this might be? thx

animal tracks

The Editors's picture

How horrible! We hope your dog survives! It’s impossible for us to say without seeing the tracks but the animal which comes to mind is the coyote. They leave small tracks and usually only marks from the first two claws. Also, they can take on a dog and it sounds as if your dog put up a good fight so he’s lucky he escaped and we can only hope he makes it. We hope that your local vet can help out with more diagnosis!

Identify this

Where to I post the pic I took so someone can identify it?

animal tracks

The Editors's picture

Unfortunately, this article is simply meant to show readers different kind of animal tracks; we do not have the bandwidth to allow photo uploads nor a service to identify tracks.

Strange footprints in the backyard

A week ago we saw strange footprints on the snow in our backyard. Something jumped down the fence and walked across the backyard. Looked like a bobcat. The footprints appeared at night.
Today in between 11a.m - 1p.m. new totally different footprints appeared. Look like deer but again something jumped down the fence.

Tracks in circle in yard

Two big round circles in our front and one in back tearing up our yard. Look like deer tracks. They are tearing our hard up. What can this be and what to do

Prints in the sand looks like peg legs just deep holes no claws

My cat has seen this for two nights in a row and he meows like I've never heard him meow before he's been around cats and dogs and squirrels we feed them during the day but he don't make no sound like this and he won't stop crying when it's here they look like deep holes in the ground no claws no footprint deep holes

Unknown footprints on my shed

I see these footprints on my shed every time it snows but don’t know what type of animal it is. It looks like hoofs?

Animal poop

I keep finding huge piles of animal poop on my deck next to house. The pile I found this morning I had to use snow shovel to clean it up. It is very black and looks like it’s loaded with cherries.

identifying scat

The Editors's picture

In the winter, berry-eating birds will litter area with black droppings. They are black from the berries. If the poop is the size of dog poop, then it could be raccoons. They also eat a lot of berries and their poop is black-ish in color. 

Animal tracks.

I have A deer freeway running through my 6.5 acre property! Trails all over leading to A thick stand of Norway pine's where they bed down.
I also see skunk, fox, coy dog, squirrel, bear and other tracks on my land.
I no longer hunt as I am too old so I suspect that they feel safe on my little plot!

Raccoon?

3-4 inch tracks. Looks like 4, maybe 5 toes in a hopping pattern. Unsure but definitely mammal. Image link below!
Good site to catalog your observations is inaturalist.org.
inaturalist.org/observations/36473946

Animal Tracks

Asking people to guess what animal left a track using a picture isn't helpful unless there is scale. Never take a photo of a track without putting something down to show scale...like a quarter or a pencil/pen. You can also make a cast of a track using Plaster of Paris. After it's dry, lift it carefully. Plan ahead if you want to make the positive of the track. Put a frame of cardboard around the track to make sure your Plaster of Paris mold has straight edges. Remove the plaster mold frame after the track is completely dry. Wrap and tape your Plaster of Paris track (obviously the track mold is facing up now) carefully and tightly with cardboard/aluminum foil and spray the plaster track with cooking spray or release spray. Fill the container with hot wax. After it sets up and is cool, carefully separate the plaster track from the wax track. Careful if there are claws because they make break off in the wax and you'll have to carefully dig the plaster out.

Strange track found in a Colorado

I was out rock hunting on the river bank of the Rio Grande with my sister and boyfriend. They were fly fishing while I was looking around and I came across a very strange track in the mud. It kind of freaks me out. Where can I submit a photo?

Animal track ID

The Editors's picture

Hi, there! You can submit a photo of the tracks to AlmanacEditors@Yankeepub.com, and we can try to identify it for you or at least narrow down the possibilities. Thanks!

trying to identify animal foot prints.

Please help me to identify rather large animal prints found in the sand in our back yard. long stride, 3 toes and a pad seemed larger than a racoon.

Grey Wolf

You might want to check those prints. Those don't look anything like a wolf print. I mean, not even remotely close. Those look to be the prints of some small varmint.

Correct on the wolf prints... they are wrong

The wolf prints listed above are not wolf prints. Wolf basically look like big dog.

unknown foot prints in my house help me to identify the animal

i found unknown foot prints in my house this animal has 5 fingers 3 in front and 2 behind. i am very afraid of from this because the print was very heavy approximately 1 inch behind on earth, i have a picture of foot print how can i show it to you?

Animal track in snow

Straight line, some prints 3-feet apart, each as big as human boot
Looks like three-claw, but center one is shortest . I have pictures

Strange animal prints in snow

I found the weirdes animal prints in the snow this morning and would like to know what kind of animal where those. I have two pictures.

what are these???

Tracks in snow about 1 1/2 feet apart: in front, 2 large ovals, with 2 smaller ovals behind, one behind the other. I couldn't see any claws, but I was looking down from my window, one story down, in snow that was beginning to melt. Any ideas???

Tracks in my yard show 3 long claws about 4” long

Do you know what they are?

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